In the introduction to Soul Food Odyssey, Chef Stephanie Tyson describes her early feelings when people assumed her Sweet Potatoes restaurant was a “soul food” establishment. “Soul food was like the boxer George Foreman,” she says. “He would stand there and go toe-to-toe. It wasn’t pretty, but he got the job done, and you’d be on your butt. Southern food, on the other hand, was like Muhammad Ali—a little prettier, and you’d still be on your butt! I wanted Ali. I missed the connection that they were both great fighters. Once I got off my high horse, I wanted to know, from a culinary point of view, how do you make what is essentially castaway food into a ‘cuisine’?” In Soul Food Odyssey, Tyson takes readers along on her journey back to find the food her grandmother called “sumntaeat.” The recipes she shares include how to cook various parts of the pig from “the router to the tooter”; other meat dishes, including everything from stewed turkey wings and pot roast to a Low Country boil; what Tyson calls “stone soul sides,” including crackling cornbread, hoecakes, and, of course, different kinds of greens; soups and stews including oxtail and fish head stew and “Everything in It Vegetable Soup”; and desserts “to sell your soul for.” Along with the recipes come Tyson’s comments, which reflect her biting wit as well as her deep appreciation of the food she has come to embrace.
Stephanie L. Tyson is a creative chef who has turned growing up in the South into the soul of her restaurant, Sweet Potatoes. Born in North Carolina, Tyson spent countless hours dreaming of the bright lights of anywhere else. But once she left to travel and cook around the world, she could not believe what a relief it was to come home again. Trained in culinary arts at Baltimore International College, Chef Tyson opened her award-winning restaurant with her partner, Vivián Joiner, in 2003 in the downtown Arts District of Winston-Salem, where they live.